Have camera bag, will travel

As a frequent traveler, I have great respect for  the discipline that goes into traveling light. It is truly an art form. Yet on the other hand it really sucks to get to your destination and realize you need some particular item that is not readily available. Particularly if that item is light and it wouldn’t have been any trouble to bring it along. And PARTICULARLY if that item is a camera accessory that you can’t just pick up at the local store!

I’ll leave it to the OneBag site to offer the  perfect light travelers packing list. But what about your camera bag when you travel? My criteria for making the traveling camera bag list is:

  1. The camera bag must:
    1. have easy access to grab the camera out with one hand
    2. travel easily through airport security
    3. fit under the seat in front of me on an airplane
    4. have some extra room for books/magazines/iPad storage to keep them handy on a flight
    5. be slender enough that I can make my way through a crowd without bumping into people (this rule eliminates more bag options than any other, btw)
    6. have flexible pouches that if I must overpack it, at least that is an option
    7. close securely to prevent pickpockets in crowded subways

What goes in the traveling camera bag? Assuming you have a DSLR and lenses, my ideal camera travel bag selection is fairly small. Here goes:

  1. The traveling camera bag typically contains:
    1. Camera body  – I’m a Canon guy, but Nikon’s are pretty awesome too. (And just don’t even tell me if you have a  Hasselblad. I don’t want to hear it.)
    2. Fixed 50 lens  – Light and fast for low light situations. The  thrifty fifty rules.
    3. Wide angle lens.  (When I used the Rebel I *loved*  the 10-22 which took  this shot. Now I have the 16-35.)
    4. Zoom lens.  I bring one, but not both, of these depending on where I am traveling.
      1. 24-105/f4 – doesn’t sound like the best lens, but I consistently get the best results with this glass. I LOVE this lens. My all time favorite. But sometimes I leave it behind b/c of weight. It is truly a brick.
      2. 70-300/f4-5.6 – again, doesn’t sound like the best lens with f4, but very flexible and light.
    5. Lens doubler  – also called a  2X teleconverter – also called “flexibility!”  (I don’t use the Canon one, I bought a cheaper one at a shop in nyc). The bad news is teleconverters KILL your lens speed. 2X but I’d guess you lose 4 or 5 f stops. So these are for daylight use only almost. Some exceptions, but TEST before you need. You will be shooting on Manual with the doubler. Oh, and on mine, auto-focus doesn’t work either. So maybe splurge for the Canon doubler.
    6. External Flash  – I use the 580EX and I hated the 430EX. If you can’t budget the 580, buy off brand until you can. The 430 is lame – you get more light from a flashlight.
    7. Extra camera battery  – battery’s are lighter than chargers and I never fully drain 2 batteries on biz trips. Skip the charger and carry an extra battery.
    8. Extra memory card  – mainly in case the other one goes corrupt.
  2. Items I now specifically do NOT bring.
    1. No extra AA batteries.  I used to carry these. Again, rechargables in the external flash will last just fine. And you can purchase batteries if you need them. Skip carrying them. This also eliminates the AA battery charger.
    2. No charger.  If I shoot through two fully charged batteries I need to stop anyway. If it is a long trip I’ll put the charger in my carry-on, but I rarely use it.
    3. No Tripod  – yup, no tripod. I am all about balancing the camera on a rock or holding it against a tree. I no longer lug around tripods and with the new faster ISO speeds on cameras they aren’t as necessary IMHO.
    4. No Lens Filters  – hate them. What is the point of buying a nice lens and then putting a crappy piece of plastic in front of it? Just doesn’t make sense. If you are that worried about your lens, use a point and shoot. Filters are a scam IMHO. The exceptions are polarized filters for daylight long-exposure shots, or artistic colored filters. But the clear ones? Just a way for the camera store to get your 50 bucks. Gone.
    5. No Rubberized Camera Exoskeleton  – if you drop the camera this probably won’t save it. And it makes it impossible to get in and out of most camera bags. And it looks dorky. Skip it. Shoot with a naked camera body.
    6. No Laptop (OK, sometimes no laptop)  – for day trips, the CF cards are large enough that you can sometimes just skip the laptop and download when you get back. Not the end of the world.

Other tips for traveling with your camera:

  1. BUY A NEW CAMERA STRAP!  Really, both Canon and Nikon put the MODEL NUMBER on the camera strap which tells would be thieves exactly the value of your camera from 100 yards away. Sheesh. So yes, buy a generic looking camera strap.
  2. Shoot RAW only  – using JPG and RAW both fills up the card and wastes time. Install the drivers and shoot only RAW.
  3. Shoot a lot  – without a tripod you will have  occasional  camera shake. Odds are if you take three shots at 1/30 that one of those will work out. Delete the other two and move on down the road.
  4. Lightroom  – get  lightroom to handle the large number of shots. Unfortunately it is $300. I used Aperture and loved it, but Adobe is going to win this battle so move on over. Plus Lightroom handles referenced files, the ones saved directly to external drives, much faster. And it handles multiple catalogs. You can research it or trust me – just go with Lightroom.
  5. External Drive  – save directly to external drives. Moving files around on and off a laptop sucks. Just import directly to an external drive. I use the  Lacie ruggedized 500GB drives. I realize they have 1TB drives now, but I don’t recommend them since they require another power supply. The 500GB is powered by USB only, which cuts down on space/weight. Carrying two 500GB drives if needed (I don’t, but hypothetically) is still lighter than another power supply. Plus you can never find enough plugs in a hotel. Another note on the drives – I just use the USB as it is the same cable for the Canon and to recharge the blackberry. Flexibility and the speed difference with Firewire isn’t that huge a deal for me on downloads.
  6. Photoshop Elements (if you must)  –  Elements is about $80. I rarely even launch photoshop and you definitely do NOT need CS. Either skip photoshop entirely or just use the cheaper Photoshop Elements. And I still don’t “get”  Bridge. Any organization I might do in Bridge I can do with Folders and Collections in Lightroom.  Just use Lightroom and give as little money to Adobe as possible.
  7. Laptop  – you don’t actually NEED a MacBook Pro to run lightroom. With the external drive you can use any laptop or even the Macbook Air. Yes it won’t be as fast, but it isn’t the end of the world and this allows you to use a smaller laptop. That said, I use the 13inch Macbook pro. I wish they had a 10inch version.
  8. Clean your lens a lot. – much easier than removing dust spots using software. Basically do as much in-camera as possible and as little on-laptop as possible.

A few photos from my travels below. Enjoy your own vacation!

Orange Line @ eTech 2007
San Diego

wall street subway STOP
New York

Chicago Times Square
New York

running with the seagulls

Dawn Brancheau - Riders on the Storm

bold coffee

Texas State Capital Building

Fruit Loop
New Mexico

little miss risk

woman in waiting
San Diego

6 Replies to “Have camera bag, will travel”

  1. Thank you Ed! Thanks Katie for letting him post this 😀 I learned a thing or too. I am traveling to CA with just me and the baby for 5 days. Babies NEED A LOT of stuff and thought I wouldn't take my camera but know I'll regret it so, taking it now after reading this post.

  2. Glad I could help! I have carried so much stuff unnecessarily in the past and it just weighs you down (literally). Safe travels Imelda!

  3. HAHAHA the word a-s-s was deleted from my comment! That's too funny.. and c-l-a-s-s-i-c!

  4. Thanks for the info – I am a flight attendant so my equipment has to fit in my crew bags and then I can switch it to a bag to travel around. I carry the Canon 7D and my trusty Canon G9. For the 7D just getting ready to buy more lenses I have been using the 50mm and the one that came on the Canon. This article was really helpful.

  5. Thanks for this wonderful article. I will try to apply all that I learned from your blog. I hope you can write more about great destinations where amateur photographers like me can practice photography.

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